“Poor Whites” Do Matter

Type Journal Article - Africa Spectrum
Title “Poor Whites” Do Matter
Volume 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Page numbers 123-126
URL http://econpapers.repec.org/article/gigafjour/v_3a48_3ay_3a2013_3ai_3a2_3ap_3a123-126.htm
I found Francis Nyamnjoh’s recent article (2012) in Africa Spectrum, as well as
Isak Niehaus’ response to it (2013), of great interest. Nyamnjoh argues that
ethnographers should not only study “down” to poor people, but also look
“up” at the elites. While I genuinely find his point of great importance to the
whole field of anthropological and ethnographical research, I have to concur
with Isak Niehaus’ opinion that Nyamnjoh’s paper does not really treat its
main example, the study of white South Africans, fairly.
Since both Niehaus and Nyamnjoh mention my work in their papers,
and since I pointed out similar problems in my 2004 doctoral thesis, I feel
obliged to participate in this discussion and to elaborate in the most constructive
of spirits on certain issues. I do so in the hope that this will help
Nyamnjoh improve on and focus his valuable argument, which still lacks
sufficient strength and convincing support.
The most obvious problem with his article is the lack of necessary
homework, which Niehaus addressed thoroughly and accurately in his response.
This refers to Nyamnjoh’s very limited, or selective, reading on the
topic. However, there are also contextual inaccuracies that Nyamnjoh
should take into account when revising his ideas.
On page 70 of the article, he builds his argument on my work, among
that of other scholars:
What little anthropological research does exist is largely unpublished
and mostly on non–English-speaking whites (cf. van der Waal and
Robins 2011) or on “poor whites” (cf. Teppo 2004).
In this rather important sentence, with which he justifies his point in the
article, he makes several incorrect statements. I therefore also have reason to
find his justification wanting

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